Mental Toughness For Triathlon / Ironman
A few words of advice that I gave to a friend competing in the Ironman Zurich this weekend. I hope others can take something from it.
It is RARE to have optimal preparation for a race. Life seems to always get in the way.
Professional or Amateur, most of us don’t live in a bubble. Focus on the sessions that you have done well and remember how you felt during these times. (Can a particular tune help evoke/intensify this feeling?) It takes a few minutes of sitting quietly and thinking and feeling how it felt to be strong/confident and to believe in yourself as an athlete.
- Visualise previous races when you have felt good and draw on the energy and emotion associated with that time.
These visualisations can be very powerful but must be practiced/repeated.
Train your mind as you would your body and it will repay you.
Race day – it is time to let go of the negativity and focus on the training that has been done and feeling healthy at the start line. Your body will do all it can to keep up with a strong mind and positive outlook.
Think through step by step and picture the perfect race.
Visualise feeling strong and in control on the bike – taking in the nutrition as planned – alternating cadence so as to use different muscle groups… getting out of the saddle on the climbs to stretch the hip flexors and lower back… Are you hands tense on the bars, relax them.. tense muscles produce lactate. Breath using your diaphragm (push your stomach out).. loosen a clenched jaw. If you feel a bit nauseas from too many gels, sit up for a while and drink some water.
If you feel a bit rubbish at any one time – do not let negativity slip into your head – it will PASS. How you feel in one moment does not define how you will feel in the next.
Let it go.
Keep on trucking.. tick off the miles. Smile at your friends and family supporting. Know that they are damn proud of you.
STAY IN THE MOMENT
Do not let your mind drift to the fact you have a marathon to run – if it does – laugh it off – tell yourself its just a long training run with the added benefits of hundreds of supporters! Remember the mind controls the body physiologically. Master the mind and the body will follow.
Use positive – goal orientated statements.
"Legs are turning over, core is tight, shoulders relaxed, breathing controlled.'
- Develop your own personal MANTRA. I see some athletes tape this to their bars.
Chrissie Wellington famously uses the poem ‘If” by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
- Know that it will take a while to get into a rhythm.
- How you feel in one moment does not mean you will feel like that in the next.
- When something starts to hurt, focus on the breathing, the leg cadence and turnover, keeping the head up and not slouching, core tight.
At times when it feels like it is impossible picture those in your life that are important to you and how memorable this moment is for them. Life is made of moments like this. We dont remember the weekends we spent eating pizza by the TV…. This will stick with you and your loved ones for life.
What you are doing is extraordinary – it is special – it is an IRONMAN – and you are getting through it Km by Km. (mile by mile)
Focus on friends or family members and of sacrifice you have made to be an athlete and to be competing.
it is worth knowing that caffeine enhances endurance performance by reducing the rate of perceived exertion, so you can keep going for longer for the same effort. I take a prolonged release supplement that I get from the chemist. Research shows the dose for optimal effect is 3-5mg/kg. I prefer not to get this from gels.. but some do
I always take a stomach settler such as Omeprazole or Zantac (Ranitidine) the morning before a race as it reduces the acidity in the gut and incidence of upset during the race. You can get it from a pharmacy if you ask.
Dont drink too much water and make sure you are taking in enough sodium (salt tabs??… you should get an idea about how much you sweat from the salt on your race kit.) … I also put a couple of Buscopan in my suit for the longer races as they work super quick on stomach cramps.
Coke on the run is brilliant – stop and sip it at the aid stations. Feel it cursing through your stomach and exuding vigour into your veins.
Never Ever Give Up. - That Finish Line is a moment which you will never forget.
You can always do more than you think you can